Very helpful book written by Hans Küng, who although a Catholic theologian himself, has some very big problems and disagreements with the RCC. Through...moreVery helpful book written by Hans Küng, who although a Catholic theologian himself, has some very big problems and disagreements with the RCC. Through most of the book, it seems that he embraces the same Gospel as myself, an orthodox evangelical Protestant. (Though toward the end, that seems questionable.) I was amazed to see the way that God has used Catholicism to indeed preserve and perpetuate both His written Word and the truly catholic, universal church. Helpful history of the Catholic church, both the good and the bad.(less)
Many people think only of finances when they think of economics, but Freakonomics uses the matrix of economics to explore…well, the hidden side of man...moreMany people think only of finances when they think of economics, but Freakonomics uses the matrix of economics to explore…well, the hidden side of many things. Some things may be commonsense, like the fact that owning a swimming pool is statistically more dangerous than owning a gun. (But how does that cause you to react to a gun vs. a swimming pool?) Other fascinating topics were how the name you give your child can affect him/her, the role a real estate agent can play, the KKK, Babywise On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep and other parenting methods, crime rates, and drug dealers. Perhaps the most controversial issue in the book is the link between legalizing abortion and the resulting lowered crime rates. While this does indeed make sense given the facts and data presented in the book, I don’t have to accept that as a reason to believe abortion is ever right, and rather to realize the failure to make changes in other areas that would help those seeking abortions also heavily plays into this factor. Overall, this was a wonderful, stimulating read. I posted a quote from this book here.(less)
After his first semester at Brown University, Kevin Roose made special request to do a unique study-abroad at Liberty University. He received permissi...moreAfter his first semester at Brown University, Kevin Roose made special request to do a unique study-abroad at Liberty University. He received permission to do so, and then was accepted into Liberty University. His goal was to see what life was like in an ultra-conservative Evangelical University. For the most part, he was able “learn the language” and culture and attend without drawing attention to his real mission: to document his time there. He grew to love the people at Liberty, though he did not come to embrace faith in Christ. He also saw many of the logical leaps and some of the Pharisaism going on among some of the teaching and practices.(less)
Keller draws from a broad overview of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, teachings of church history (most frequently referring to Jonathan Edwards...moreKeller draws from a broad overview of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, teachings of church history (most frequently referring to Jonathan Edwards’ teachings), and specific teachings of Jesus as he lays out the beautiful picture of the righteousness/justice of God, showing God’s heart and identification (particularly through Christ’s incarnation) with the vulnerable and helpless of society. Throughout the book, he also draws out the beauty of the Gospel, and the amazing grace that God has shown us through His love for us.
A particularly helpful aspect of the book (at least from the background I am coming from, where specific objections were actually taught as reason to avoid helping the poor) is that he addresses several common objections people may have to assisting those in need. Some of them are: 1)Though they are need, they are not in extremity, 2)Those assisting will not have enough for themselves, 3) the poor are poor by their own fault, 4)they will act irresponsibly with what they are given. There are others, as well, and Keller walks through each one, deconstructing the objections with Scriptural examples and directives.
In my reading of the book, Chapter Eight seemed somewhat disconnected from the rest of the book. Further into the chapter, it began to make more sense. I am not sure if this was just me and my foggy state of mind or if others may feel the same. However, it did not affect my appreciation for this work. This is a book that now has a good deal of highlighting and notes, and one that I will have on a list to read again and refer to often. Highly, highly recommend.
In the introduction to Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, Tim Keller notes that there are four types of people who he hopes will read his book: 1. People who have a concern for social justice and have been involved in the volunteerism movement, but who do not let their social concern affect their personal lives.
"[This concern] does not influence how they spend money on themselves, how they conduct their careers, the way they choose and live in neighbhorhoods, or whom they seek as friends. Also, many lose enthusiasm for volunteering over time. From their youth culture they have imbibed not only an emotional resonance for social justice but also a consumerism that undermines self-denial and delayed gratification. Popular youth culture in Western countries cannot bring about the broad change of life in us that is required if we are to make a difference for the poor and marginalized. While many young adults have a Christian faith, and also desire to help people in need, these two things are not actually connected to each other in their lives. They have not thought out the implications of Jesus’s gospel for doing justice in all aspects of life. That connection I will attempt to make in this book. (xi)"
2. The person who approaches the subject of “doing justice” with suspicion.
"In the twentieth century the American church divided between the liberal mainline that stressed social justice and the fundamentalist churches that emphasized personal salvation. One of the founders of the Social Gospel movement was Walter Rauschenbusch, a German Baptist minister whose first pastorate was on the edge of New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen in the 1880s. His firsthand acquaintance with the terrible poverty of his neighborhood led him to question traditional evangelism, which took pains to save people’s souls but did nothing about the social systems locking them into poverty. Rauschenbusch began to minister to “both soul and body,” but in tandem with this shift in method came a shift in theology. He rejected the traditional doctrines of Scripture and atonement. He taught that Jesus did not need to satisfy the justice of God, and therefore he died only to be an example of unselfishness.
In the mind of many orthodox Christians, therefore, “doing justice” is inextricably linked with the loss of sound doctrine and spiritual dynamism. However, Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century author of the sermons “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” was a staunch Calvinist and hardly anyone’s idea of a “liberal.” Yet in his discourse on “The Duty of Charity to the Poor,” he concluded, “Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more peremptory urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor?” (xi-xii)"
3. The younger evangelicals who have “expanded their missions” to include social justice along with evangelism, but who may have dropped attention to important theology. "Many of them have not only turned away from older forms of ministry, but also from traditional evangelical doctrines of Jesus’s substitutionary atonement and of justification by faith alone, which are seem as too “individualistic.” These authors usually argue that changes in theological emphasis–or perhaps outright changes in theological doctrine–are necessary if the church is going to be more engaged in the pursuit of social justice. The scope of the present volume prevents us from looking at these debates about atonement and justification. However, one of its main purposes is to show that such reengineering of doctrine is not only mistaken in itself, but also unnecessary. The most traditional formulation of evangelical doctrine, rightly understood, should lead its proponents to a life of doing justice in the world. (xiii-xiv)"
4. Those who charge that religion “poisons everything” and see Christianity in opposition to social justice. "Recently there has been a rise in books and blogs charging that religion, to quote Christiopher Hitchens, “poisons everything.” To such people the idea that belief in the Biblical God necessarily entails commitment to justice is absurd. But as we will see, the Bible is a book devoted to justice in the world from first to last. And the Bible gives us not just a naked call to care about justice, but gives us everything we need–motivation, guidance, inner joy, and power–to live a just life. (xiv)" Keller connects these four seemingly different groups as he concludes this portion of his introduction (emphasis mine):
"I have identified four groups of readers who seem at first glance to be very different, but they are not. They all fail at some level to see that the Biblical gospel of Jesus necessarily and powerfully leads to a passion for justice in the world. A concern for justice in all aspects of life is neither an artificial add-on nor a contradiction to the message of the Bible. (xiv)"(less)
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is Amy Chua’s comparison of the stereotypical Chinese (or Asian) mothering system with the stereotypical American moth...moreBattle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is Amy Chua’s comparison of the stereotypical Chinese (or Asian) mothering system with the stereotypical American mothering system. It is her honest and somewhat candid story of how she parented her two daughters (now young adults) using what she refers to as “Chinese Mothering.”
Undoubtedly, she draws many false dichotomies and makes many over-generalizations about what she perceives to be American parenting. I listened to this book on audio, but I’m afraid that if I had read it I would have really disliked the book even more. On the audio, it is Amy Chua reading and somehow she seems to be smiling as she reads, somehow almost masking the narcissism, judgmentalism, ethocentricism (which she decries if her children show towards Chinese parenting) and authoritarianism, amongst other things, that she so blatantly displays in her parenting. Somehow she manages to get you to love and hate her at the same time.
Amy’s goals for her daughters was for them to be the best at everything they did, and if they were not they were met with swift and severe punishment. She is married to a Jewish man, but she and her husband chose to allow the Chinese mothering have primary influence. Beyond academic success, she also pushed her oldest daughter to excel at piano and her youngest to excel at violin. She shows how it was her Chinese mothering that brought this success, and that American/Western parents would have given up very early in the game. In her opinion, her parenting style worked…in that it got the “results” she was looking for: success. Unfortunately, this caused a lot of opposition and conflict between in her family, particularly with her youngest daughter. (At one point, she even recounts how she would not accept a birthday card from her daughter because it wasn’t “good enough,” and made her make a better one.) When her youngest was a teenager, she finally relented in her extreme micromanagement and allowed her daughter to make some decisions on her own, likely salvaging the relationship. At the same time, she recounts many warm, tender moments, especially the moments of success for her daughter and her feelings of affection to the family dogs–something that she deemed inappropriate to share with her children.
Of course, I disagree strongly with what she viewed as success, as well as the goals she had for her children. This book has made many headlines recently, and it was indeed a helpful book to read, if for nothing other than perspective. (And obviously, I’m not going to over-generalize and assume that this is how all Chinese mothers parent their children.) There were even a few things that I agreed with. But in the long run, seeing her parenting method “work,” is still not worth the walls she built between herself in her children, even if they still talk to her and are appreciative that they have excelled in life because of her. Nonetheless, Amy Chua is a gifted writer and it was a stimulating read…er, listen.(less)
I always marvel at the way my reading is often connected in themes. I began going through this book while still working through Generous Justice: How...moreI always marvel at the way my reading is often connected in themes. I began going through this book while still working through Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just, and was thankful for how the two books intersected in topics. The most valuable aspect of this book to me was picture it painted of who we are in Christ now that we are sons of God, and who I was before: helpless, orphaned, outside of the family of God.
Some parts of this book seem to biblicize the Moore family’s personal choices in various things they did when adopting their two sons from Russia (such as renaming them with American names, not teaching them their original culture or language, preferring adoptions of babies/young children, and their particular method of discipline), and then use proof-texting to tie it to Scripture. Others were just assumed to be Biblical. This seems to be misleading, at best. In other areas, Moore is very clear to state that something they did was simply their choice, and that many others would and should do things differently.
The book is not so much a how-to on adoption as it is a picture of what Moore believes adoption to be and parallels the Gospel of our adoption in Christ to the picture of earthly adoption. (Though it is not the position of theological adoption that I had previously been taught, it was nonetheless helpful to see it in this light.) Moore also repeatedly emphasizes God’s heart for the vulnerable, particularly the orphans. In addition, it is a sort of memoir of his own family’s adoptions. He walks through the various aspects of their own adoption of sons, their period of infertility, the adding of their two biological sons, and the various trials they endured through these times. The book is both theological and anecdotal in nature, perhaps leaning more towards the latter.
I do wish that this work would have addressed other ways to “care for the orphans,” but then again, the book was on adoption specifically, as the title claims. Adoption is one of many ways of "caring for the orphan" in today's American culture, and perhaps one of the more glamorized ways to do so. Our desire is to eventually minister to the orphan through adoption or foster care, so in this respect it was a helpful book for us to read. Overall, it is likely a good book for any Christian unfamiliar with observing an adoption up-close, but who must also be willing to read with discernment. (less)
Orthodoxy is Chesterton’s 1908 addition to an earlier work, Heretics, and was also written in response, according to Chesterton, to Mr. G.S. Street. I...moreOrthodoxy is Chesterton’s 1908 addition to an earlier work, Heretics, and was also written in response, according to Chesterton, to Mr. G.S. Street. It is his self-acclaimed essay on how he came to believe the orthodoxy of the Christian faith (specifically, he converted to Catholicism later in life), tracing the path of his searching for the meaning of life and realizing the answer had been answered again and again throughout the history of the church. Much of this work and his accounting for his own thoughts is portrayed in metaphor, which I really enjoyed in this work. He also refers to many of his contemporaries and their specific practices/beliefs, which is an aspect that can be somewhat confusing if the reader is not aware of their backgrounds and the teachings tied to their names (such would be the case for myself, with most of the names). Although he attacks reformed theology, seems to view some races as being superior to others (although he repeatedly attacked evolutionary thought), and has other issues I disagree with, I found this book is very mentally and spiritually stimulating.(less)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a memoir of Douglass’ life from being born into slavery in Maryland through the first years of his live...moreNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a memoir of Douglass’ life from being born into slavery in Maryland through the first years of his live as a freed man. Although Douglass had to teach himself to read and write, it is very clear that he was a brilliant man and skilled in writing, which is remarkable considering that Douglass wrote the book when he was in his twenties.
Douglass was a child of a Harriet Bailey, a female slave, and was fathered (in the biological sense of the word) by a white man who was unknown, but suspected to be Aaron Anthony. He did not know his mother, who died when he was seven years old. He was transferred from plantation slavery to city slavery, living with Hugh and Sophia Auld. It was there that Sophia began teaching him the alphabet, but that was put to an abrupt halt when her husband demanded that she cease for fear that an educated slave would realize his pitiful condition. (It was against the law, as well, to teach a slave to read.) After that, Sophia grew to be more brutal toward Douglass, though never nearing the plantation and deep-south brutality and atrocities. During his time in the city, he was exposed to opportunity and education, but was for a brief time sent back to the plantation, at which time he was whipped and observed further atrocities upon other slaves. From there, several more transfers were made, including some even after he was again sent back to live with the Auld family. He eventually escaped, seven years after learning about the abolitionist movement. (Interestingly, he seemed to be opposed to the Underground Railroad system, though he still encouraged that slaves should escape.) He was assisted by abolitionists following his escape, at which time he was also married. He began speaking on behalf of enslaved black Americans, and this is where the narrative ends in his life.(less)
The Brothers Karamazov is the tale of three Russian brothers who have the same father (two different mothers), and are very different young men. The s...moreThe Brothers Karamazov is the tale of three Russian brothers who have the same father (two different mothers), and are very different young men. The story fills out their lives and characters, and then their father, Fyodor, is brutally murdered. The final part of the story follows the trial of the suspected murder and the revelation of what really happened. But the weight of this book is in the sociopolitical and religious dialogues, monologues, and other speeches intricately woven into the story.(less)
Nurture Shock is not your normal run-of-the-mill parenting or child-education book. It is certainly not a how-to book. It is an engaging work that dis...moreNurture Shock is not your normal run-of-the-mill parenting or child-education book. It is certainly not a how-to book. It is an engaging work that dissects and refutes many common assumptions about various aspects of child development, both their brain-thinking and their moral-thinking. Author Po Bronson puts it this way in the introduction to the book: “In other words, [what we think are our parenting/mothering] instincts can be so off-base because they are not actually instincts. Today, with three years of investigation behind us, Ashley and I now see that what we imagined were our ‘instincts’ were instead just intelligent, informed reactions. Things we had figured out. Along the way, we also discovered that those reactions were polluted by a hodgepodge of wishful thinking, moralistic biases, contagious fads, personal history, and old (disproven) psychology — all at the expense of common sense.” (emphasis mine)
“[This book will] reveal just how many of our bedrock assumptions about kids can no longer be counted on.” The bedrock assumptions this book addresses are: 1)the inverse power of praise, 2)how lack of sleep really affects children more than commonly believed, 3)the fact that children are not “color-blind” to race, 4)why children lie (don’t be alarmed, this is not excusing lying; in fact, it specifically addresses ways that children learn lying by what they see/hear their parents doing (and thus perceive it as lying), 5)misdirected “gifted” testing too early in a child’s life, 6)sibling relationships, 7)arguing in teens, 8)teaching self-control to young children, 9)playing well with others 10)language skill development in infants/why “baby-genius” DVD’s aren’t all they’re made out to be.
The books in some ways is a presentation of scientific studies, sometimes letting the reader draw his own conclusions and sometimes and having the authors share their/the investigators conclusions. Some of the conclusions were already similar to various hypothesis I’d held, but most were new or things I hadn’t even thought about. Although I may not hold all the same conclusions as the author or may react differently to them, I recommend this book to both parents (and relatives around those children) and educators. I certainly wasn’t “shocked,” though in many areas simultaneously, surprised but not surprised. Of course, it’s likely that there will be new research in just a few years…but some of this is just common sense.(less)
In essence, this book is a Dave Ramsey of the 1920′s crossed with a historical fairy tale. Most of the book is written in a King-James/Shakespearean s...moreIn essence, this book is a Dave Ramsey of the 1920′s crossed with a historical fairy tale. Most of the book is written in a King-James/Shakespearean style of English, with a few random insertions and commentary in then contemporary English. Though most of the book is written in a parable-like story recounting the financial and economic lessons surrounding Babylon and Arkad, the fictional “richest man in Babylon.” It is basic, but still very helpful.(less)
Organized Simplicity is one of the better “home-organizing-books-geared-for-women” I’ve read. I think part of that is due to the fact that, in an inte...moreOrganized Simplicity is one of the better “home-organizing-books-geared-for-women” I’ve read. I think part of that is due to the fact that, in an interesting twist of irony, so many of these organizing books are quite unorganized and cluttery in appearance themselves (and make you feel guilty if you don’t use their specific methods and become organized within 24 hours of reading the book). Oxenreider’s book appealed to me aesthetically for that very reason: it was a simple, modern, spiral-bound notebook. The first half of the book focuses on a general matrix for simplicity in the home, and the latter half of the book provides practical guides for organizing a house, as well as various appendices on homemade cleaning solutions, helpful checklists, and similar.(less)
Those familiar with the name George Barna will know that he is renowned within Christian circles for founding The Barna Group, a research group that f...moreThose familiar with the name George Barna will know that he is renowned within Christian circles for founding The Barna Group, a research group that focuses primarily on studying, surveying, and researching statistics within the American Christian subculture. In keeping with this, Barna’s book focuses on the researching the crucial aspects of parenting that correlate with what he calls “spiritual champions.” Barna begins by stating that in the mass of parenting books available, he really does believe his is necessary to write and add to the pile. Indeed, this book is different than many books that focus on what parents should do in parenting, and instead focuses on what things parent did or didn’t do as they parented and what seemed to be the common factors in parenting in homes that had children who are now “spiritual champions,” which is why he believes his book to be necessary.
The book includes many statistics, but also include anecdotes and quotes from parents and teens/young adults who participated in the survey. In my opinion as a reader who wished to be more informed, it would have been helpful to have better information about the specifics of what denominations and parts of Christianity these “spiritual champions” were coming from, as well as a more precise definition of a “spiritual champion,” beyond distinguishing him/her as being actively involved in church ministry and outreach and having a walk with the Lord.
The book makes several false dichotomies, for instance the premise of the book: there are kids who turn out to be “spiritual champions,” and then there’s everyone else, and there are the parents who raise “spiritual champions,” and then there is everyone else. For the most part, Spiritual Champions is not a how-to book of parenting, but rather a broad survey of a survey. The book does end with Barna unleashing a flurry of isolated Scripture verses, interspersed with hermeneutical leaps and random parenting advice eisegeted into the lives of Old Testament heros, mingled in with a few truly Biblical exhortations for parents. I found this to be somewhat confusing, and left me slightly more disappointed with the book than if this latter segment had been left off altogether. (Some of it even conflicted with conclusions made earlier in the book.) Still, I found it an interesting book, and it does give an idea of what many presumably conservative (both politically and religiously, it would seem), Evangelical Christians are doing to expose their children to Biblical, spiritual training.(less)
This book has been referenced in several of my recent readings, most recently and notably in Nurture Shock, which I read last month. Goleman presents...moreThis book has been referenced in several of my recent readings, most recently and notably in Nurture Shock, which I read last month. Goleman presents of research and the conclusions that emotional intelligence is just as important as the intellectual quotient in discerning a person’s over-all ability to function within society. Thus, it is also important to hone in on the emotional development of children. The scope of what emotional intelligence affected ranges from parenting, racisim, poverty, education, job-training, and everything in between. An enlightening read.(less)
One of C.S. Lewis’ classic works. (Or aren’t all his works?) I’d only read parts of Screwtape Letters before. The Screwtape Letters is Lewis’ satirica...moreOne of C.S. Lewis’ classic works. (Or aren’t all his works?) I’d only read parts of Screwtape Letters before. The Screwtape Letters is Lewis’ satirical masterpiece of what correspondence between demons working to tempt humans might write. Screwtape is the seasoned demon, writing to his apprenticing nephew, Wormwood. The letters take place in Britain during war-time. I found this to be a very helpful and convicting book, but wonder if in some parts of Screwtape Proposes a Toast, Lewis spiritualized some of his rants of his own opinions.(less)